Part 11: Benson: The Enemy Within
Judges are a strange breed. Unique in their calculations and in their eccentricities. You do not get to be a judge without being exceptionally gifted in some respect. And you do not get to be gifted without the odd quirks that come with brilliance. As they have said time and again, the line between genius and insanity is a fine one — and the best judges of the world are dancing upon this line.
Why do I mention this, you ask? Because there was only one thing coming between me and my prey — a search warrant. And there is only one way to get a search warrant in the middle of the night — to drop by a judge’s house. And if you think judges are odd in the daytime, you haven’t seen them in their pajamas.
I went to Midpark Street near Appleton East High School, one of the more strangely designed buildings in all of Appleton. For some reason, much of the building is one large circle, causing every door to look the same as another. The only judge whose address I remembered from memory was Judge James Rolfs. There was a time when my daughter was dating his son and we came over for supper. Parents meeting each other “just in case” the romance blossomed into something more made sense to me. And two members of law enforcement could probably discuss something off the record of interest. But that was not the case at all.
Jim’s wife had prepared a chicken salad for us. The salad was crisp and fresh, and as the situation turned out the vegetables were hand-picked from her garden that very afternoon. She was very sweet and we had a good time conversing. At one point, before settling into the role of wife and mother, she had worked as a United Parcel Service driver (and later a dispatcher). Fairly common, yes, but you would be amazed at the things those drivers see when they go up to various people’s porches. We see some pretty heinous stuff as police, but at least the people we encounter are usually clothed, unlike your average episode of Cops. With the UPS, you can’t ever count on that.
You’re waiting for me to explain how James was eccentric. Well, two things struck me immediately. First of all, he did not eat dinner with us. He didn’t even talk to anyone present if he could help matters. While his wife and her two kids — from a prior marriage — treated us to some fine grub and polite chit-chat, James took his meal into the living room and watched some old western film. His wife explained he had an adverse fear of people, which seemed out of the ordinary coming from a man of such power.
The other thing was when he talked, he had a very lispy voice and his mannerisms were somewhat limp. Exactly what you would expect from the stereotypical homosexual male. I have been in the courtroom with him before and these are not at all his mannerisms and vocal range on the bench. He is commanding and authoritative. So this struck me as odd that in his leisure time his more natural approach was so overtly feminine. The fact that both of his daughters were not his own did little to solidify his masculinity. Rumors of his cross-dressing and homo-erotic encounters were all over Appleton, but until that moment I was never able to picture them as true.
Here I was now, at his home in the pitch darkness. The moonlight was there, but even the street lamps were capped over by swaying tree branches. I parked the squad on the street — technically illegal at this time of night if I were a civilian — and walked up the front steps to his oversized front door. I gave that distinct knock I told you about — just as I used to imitate as a child while watching Dragnet — and waited for a response.
A light came on in the front corridor and I heard the pitter-patter of little feet approaching the door. His daughter? The door opened and the noise-maker was his wife — whom I now recall is named June. She was wearing a modest nightgown, peach-colored and floor length with no sleeves. Her hair was up with two pigtails tied around the back of her head in something of a halo. Is this what they call a French braid? I was never good with remembering hair styles.
“Yes, officer?” I expected her to rub her eyes like Cindy Who on Christmas Eve, but this was not to be.
“Hello, June — perhaps you don’t remember me — Officer Benson. My daughter dated your son a few years back.”
“Oh yes, Benson. Your daughter is lovely. Kyle was a fool to allow her to slip away. What can I do for you?”
“If James is available, I need a search warrant signed for a possible manslaughter.” Maybe I was assuming too much by uttering the word “manslaughter” but I already told you about my goal of becoming the next Peter Falk, and one cannot expect to attain such goals by being cautious.
“Oh dear. I’ll go arouse him right away.”
I waited patiently on the porch, trying to determine whether or not to find the word “arouse” amusing. I mean, could any woman really arouse James? But I had to keep my head clear and stick to the seriousness of this all. There was no telling where all this adventure might lead yet. Before long, John was at the door — in full pajamas, slippers, and a silly floppy hat. The sight could have been worse, at least he was not wearing Underoos or something pink and frilly. Well, not that I could see, anyway.
“Offisser Bensson, I have taken the liberty of ssigning the ssearch warrant in advansse; jusst fill out the nessessary detailss and I trusst everything will be fine.” Drunk or asleep?
“Thank you very much, sir.”
I returned to my car and examined the document — sure enough, signed and ready with the entries for name, address, and search objectives left blank. Certainly not proper procedure by any means. For all he knows I could use this to search a Wal-Mart bathroom. But I filled the line out for the Zwilling apartment and was back on my way.
I parked around the corner to keep as low key and inconspicuous as possible. Walking to the door, I noticed the interior lighting was still dim — not sure where anyone was, but I had no doubt the pieces would all fall together soon enough.
The door was locked, as one would expect. Unlike the shows you see on television, I am not the type of person who feels the need to bust in a door with my shoulder or kick them down dramatically with a flying dropkick. I’m not even sure I could do that anymore. Instead, I whip out my Visa card. My credit card gets me everywhere I want to be. Just slide the makeshift tool through the crack of the door and — presto! — we’re inside without any property damage or potential lawsuits.
Once inside, I had to climb a flight of stairs. They weren’t too steep, though the hallway was rather narrow. The older parts of town were never really built to last. At the top of the stairs was another door, unlocked, and the layered plastic barricade swung in to reveal a kitchen.
The kitchen was surprisingly clean for a bachelor pad. A few dishes littered the sink from what looked like a meal of spaghetti with mushrooms and Parmesan cheese, but the carpet was well swept and the walls weren’t overly yellow from smoking. The fridge was barren on the outside — no photographs, magnetic poetry or report cards to admire. The inside was almost as desolate — a six-pack of Rolling Rock and some hard-boiled eggs. A bottle of ketchup. Some lunch meat that looked expired. And a bottle of strawberry Quik — but no milk.
A mirror rested up against the wall, cracked. The mirror’s angle reflected the ceiling for anyone entering the apartment, showing more of the same blankness as the walls. Not even a poster or painting livened up this room. Obviously, he either ate out a lot or was the ultimate minimalist.
The next room was a living room and this is where the magic happens, I gathered. Posters lined the walls — one for Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn, one for Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, and some poster showing what appeared to be a Gothic sketch of the inside of a handgun where the bullets were small demons or alienesque creatures. Two couches filled the room, perpendicular to each other. They did not match each other, besides the fact that both were torn to shit and someone felt duct tape would be a good idea to reupholster them. A coffee table carried a Super Nintendo, some porn magazines including the March 1967 issue of Playboy with Sharon Tate, and a small bong. I wasn’t overly concerned about that right now. The rest of the room wasn’t overly remarkable, though the filthiness of this floor made up for the cleanliness of the kitchen.
A hallways led back to a balcony and the bathroom. I assume the toilet was broken because the water was more piss than H2O. The enclosed, upright-coffin-shaped shower was clean — the last occupant apparently used Suave, based on the lingering scent. The sink was full of whiskers and other assorted hairs of the curly variety. Some of which I didn’t really need to think about. For the record, they were not all the same color or coarseness.
I concluded the tour in the bedroom, with a queen-sized bed being the centerpiece. Not much else here. The man either liked to sleep in peace or was just a really boring young man.
Not surprisingly, I found nothing that could prove or corroborate the pending charges, so I decided to wait in the bedroom for someone to arrive. Somewhat like Billy in Bob Clark’s timeless original Black Christmas — not to be confused with his later hit, A Christmas Story. You can’t run forever.
Come hell or high water, I would have my man by dawn.